Continued from My Story – Part 6 (Trying to Survive)
I want to reiterate my trigger warning on this post because I discuss suicidal ideation and weight issues with numbers that could be triggering for some readers. Please, keep yourself safe.
When my boyfriend, P.I., and I broke up at the end of 2004, he told me I could stay with him until my court date over the child support with my ex-husband. When that court date was postponed until April (court was continuously postponed for a total of 6 years due to the fact that my ex-husband never showed up), I was left in a state of limbo, having no where to else to go and no income to support myself. P.I. allowed me to continue living with him and his parents; but he was constantly picking fights with me, pressuring me to find a job and abandon my disability claim. I looked at my life and chastised myself relentlessly for not getting my act together. I began working part-time as a floater at a preschool. Working with kids made me miss mine even more. I continued looking for a better job until I found a great full-time graphic artist position at a factory in Tullahoma, TN, making $11.50 per hour (the most I ever made in my life). In April, I spent the first two weeks at my job living out of a hotel room, eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and cereal. After I received my first paycheck, I put a deposit down on a 2 bedroom apartment and moved in.
Tullahoma is a small rural community, about two and a half hours away from where I had been living in Clarksville. I was so lonely. I knew no one there. The depression worsened. By the end of May, I ran out of medication. I tried getting help through a local mental health facility, but the services were minimal and unhelpful. My life felt so out of control. I called the crisis call line more times there than I ever had. Prior to moving to Tullahoma, I gained approximately 60 lbs, which in and of itself was a huge stressor for me given my disordered eating habits. This brought my total weight up to 170 lbs by January 2005 – the most I had ever weighed in my life, even while pregnant. I believe the weight gain was a result of an earlier change in medication. My best guess is the Lexapro because after I ran out of medication that extra 60 pounds of weight fell off very quickly. By the end of 2005, I was back down to 105 pounds. By the middle of June, I was a nervous wreck, realizing that even though I was making more money than I ever had, I still couldn’t afford to pay rent, electric, child support, student loans, buy food and groceries, and gas, not to mention my car was also giving me problems. I was in over my head again financially, all while going through horrible withdrawal from medication. I began feeling suicidal again; so I went into the ER for help.
(Hospitalization #7 – suicidal ideation) That night, I was transported to Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga, TN. This was another state-run facility like Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute; but this one was by far scarier! (I have to interject here that transporting mental health patients by police car, shackled, and handcuffed, as I had been on numerous occasions, is not only inhumane and dehumanizing, but incredibly traumatic.) Riding up to this facility in the back of a police car down a long, long road that looks like it’s in the middle of absolutely no where, my first glimpse sent chills down my spine. It is actually on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the Tennessee River. It was lit up in the darkness of night with floodlights that made me think of prisons or the old-style insane asylums of the ’40’s and ’50’s. I had only seen pictures of places like this. I spent 3 very desperate days trying to get out of that hospital. They took me off all of the medications, except one, Effexor.
After this hospitalization, I tried to keep it together – I really did. Work was stressful. I couldn’t keep up with the pace my supervisor wanted me to work. I had missed several days due to the hospitalization and had a few tardies. My supervisor called me into her office to tell me that she was moving me to night-shift. I couldn’t object. I had no say. It was just done. A few days later, I walked out on my job. I just got up and left, in tears. As I sat at my computer that night trying to do my work, thoughts kept running through my mind. I’m not really sure what they were, now; but these thoughts had tears streaming down my face, panic quickly setting in. Humiliated that I was crying at work, embarrassed that I couldn’t make myself stop, worried that someone might see, feeling a despair that I had so often felt, and experiencing a panic like I had never felt before… I just got up and quickly walked out.
The move, the new job, missing work because of the hospitalization, the change in medication, no support system, no friends or family in the area, still dealing with child support issues and not being able to see my son, having transportation issues, not making enough money to cover all my expenses, even mourning the loss of my relationship with P.I. – it ALL became too much to handle. I didn’t even speak to my supervisor. I just left work and never went back.
That was the last time I worked.
I left Tullahoma. At this time, I asked my family for help, the first and only time I ever did so. I wanted to move back to my hometown to be closer to my son; but both my mother and my sister refused my pleas for help. My mother simply said she didn’t have the space. My sister told me I needed to stick it out where I was at and make the best of it. Fearing that I would go to jail if I missed the court appearance over the child support (now in July) and having no where else to go, I put everything I owned in storage and went back to Clarksville, TN. Again, homeless, I slept in my car for a couple of nights. I ended up losing everything I owned as a result of having no way to pay the storage facility.
For 3 days, I stayed at a place called Foundations Respite. Upon release, I was supposed to go to a domestic abuse shelter in Clarksville. It was the only place they could find for me since the homeless shelter was full. I dropped off the few belongings I had with me at that shelter and went to speak with P.I. over an unpaid water bill in my name. He convinced me to go to the ER that night because I expressed to him my suicidal thoughts. My plan was to speed down I-24 and crash into a rock wall. (Hospitalization #8 – suicidal ideation) I was in the hospital for a total of 24 days this time. My medication changed to Cymbalta, Risperdal, Remeron, and Adderall (for the newest diagnosis of ADD). After I was released from the hospital, I was supposed to go to a homeless shelter in Nashville; but P.I. allowed me to move back in with him. This was probably not one of my smartest decisions, but he was the only person who would take me in. There were so many people living in that house already – a total of 5 adults, 2-4 kids at any given time, 4 cats, and the constant traffic of friends and family coming over. It was crowded, to say the least, and totally overwhelming.
By the end of November 2005, I quit taking ALL the medications because I feared I wouldn’t be able to afford them any longer without insurance (I think this was around the time that TN was phasing out TennCare). I realized that I felt horrible and stressed whether or not I was taking them. This was when I first began to seriously question their effectiveness. Of course, that led to yet another hospitalization at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute in Nashville (Hospitalization #9 – suicidal ideation) because coming off of medication really is brutal. I seriously frightened myself this time as I sat there for what felt like hours (probably, more like minutes) holding P.I.’s gun to my head with my finger on the trigger. When I couldn’t force myself to pull that trigger (the thought of my son saved my life), I called my case manager. Like I’ve said before or meant to say before if I haven’t, ANY changes in my medication led me to suicide attempts or at least stronger than normal suicidal voices in my head. They became much harder to resist while medicated – I had little to no impulse control while medicated. Six out of 10 times, I was able to make myself seek help before I made a lethal decision. I can only say that my will to live was stronger than my will to die in those 6 instances. The 4 suicide attempts were the opposite, my will to die was stronger. Given the fact that I continue to experience suicidal thoughts even now, I honestly can’t say how to prevent them. The only thing I know for certain is that provided I can make myself “wait out” those thoughts and whatever emotions bring me to that point, I have a better chance of not acting on them.
Shortly after hospitalization #9, in January 2006, P.I. and I moved into a trailer that we had all to ourselves for a little while. Things calmed down some, but our relationship was never quite the same after we got back together. We argued a lot. He complained a lot. For the most part, I was vacant, in my mind. I could sit for hours just staring out the window in perfect silence, like I did when I was a little girl. My disability case had been reopened so many times the previous year that, at some point, I was told they had no record of me. I hired an attorney in 2006 to help me, but I had no hope of actually being approved. Shortly after summer 2006, P.I. got a job offer in Lebanon, TN; so we moved again. Not even a couple of months after we moved there, he met someone else and began having an affair with her. As he made plans to move in with this woman, I reached out to the only friend I had at the time, K.R. As I mentioned previously on my blog, even after our relationship ended in March 2002, K.R. and I remained friends and talked occasionally. He was the only friend to come see me while I lived in Tullahoma. He was always an ear to turn to when I struggled. He offered to let me stay with him in Nashville, TN; so I moved in with K.R. into his one bedroom apartment. Shortly after moving in, we decided to give our relationship another try; and we’ve been together ever since, just over 7 years, now.
As I’ve been writing out my story, I realize that it is growing far longer than I intended; but so much has happened in my life that I attribute to my mental health struggles. I don’t even feel like I’m going into as much detail as I could; but for the sake of brevity, as brief as I can get it anyway, I’m trying to establish a timeline here. Bear with me. I’m getting closer to the present day.